Category Archives: Christ at the CheckPoint

Another Look at Zionism

It is not often I offer an article from a newspaper as a blog. But, I want as many people as possible to read this piece by Michael Oren that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The piece is a passionate, reasonable and well-articulated appeal to those who might find themselves swayed by the current war with Hamas to either question or even denounce the fundamental validity of the Zionist movement.

I usually try to “stick” with the more biblical aspects of the issue but this time, I simply had to send this out. I was personally moved by Oren’s recounting of the rationale for Zionism and his basic theory that the best argument for Zionism is that it has worked! And he does an excellent job of explaining why.

Today many will say they support Israel but try as much as possible to separate support for the modern state of Israel with the term and “philosophy” of Zionism. Even some Christians and Messianic Jews who believe Israel has a divine right to the Land sometimes want to distance themselves today from the term Zionism. Over the years the term Zionism has been battered about and linked with racism in United Nations statements , which was later revoked by UMN resolution 46/86 in 1991. It has become a synonym for Middle East imperialism, racial intolerance and hatred for all Palestinians. Oren will convince you to reconsider if for some reason you are beginning to believe these things.

Unfortunately the problem has deepened, especially in parts of Europe and the Middle East as the line between anti-Zionism and anti anti-Semitism has been blurred leading to anti Jewish violence. Dr. Michael Brown develops this abhorrent shift from politics to racism in an excellent opinion piece written a few days ago. I suggest you read this as well.

So, for once I am not going to develop a line of theological argumentation that establishes the fundamental and biblical “right to the Land of Israel”, though I believe this is part of the overall story of Scripture. I understand that godly believers interpret the Bible differently and choose to respect and love one another and we do need to constantly learn how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Though this is easier for us to say living safely in the US than for those of our brethren suffering in the midst of the conflict in Israel and other parts of the Middle East – like Mosul!

As you will read in Oren’s article there are some very sound “non-biblical reasons” for people, especially Christians in the West (allow me to be self centered for a moment!) to wince when confronted with the array of Zionist negativity so passionately argued today. I believe Oren provides provides critical information to help us stay balanced in the midst of the current anti Zionist onslaught that is beginning to seriously impact the viewpoint and actions of followers of Jesus.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/in-defense-of-zionism-1406918952?KEYWORDS=zionism

Pass the article along as well and remember that when you pray for the peace of Jerusalem we are praying for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land. (Psalm 122:6)

See: United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted on November 10, 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35.
And: http://www.wnd.com/2014/07/the-fine-line-between-anti-zionism-and-anti-semitism/

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Boycotts against Israel, Christ at the CheckPoint, Israel, Jews and Christians, Middle East, Palestinian

A Response to the Murder of Three Israeli Teenagers

It is hard to think about the usual matters of ministry after hearing about the three Israelis Yeshiva students who were mercilessly slain by terrorists. It is a reminder of how sinful and cruel our world can be and how our Jewish people continue to be subjected to such fierce hatred. These terrible circumstances also remind us that the is little time left for our work of preaching the Gospel.

I received the following note from one of our dear friends and supporters which also reminds me of just how much some Christians are moved by Gods love for the Jewish people.

This brother and friend writes,

Bro. Mitch,

When we learned of the news about the three kidnapped boys, we were deeply moved as we had been following this story daily in the online Israeli newspapers. I am privileged to teach an adult SS class each week and they enjoy being kept up to date on news from Israel. I use Powerpoint to show map locations, headlines, and had shown pictures of the boys with their names. I know people were praying for them.

What an opportunity to support Israel wholeheartedly when the circumstances are so clear. So I can only shake my head and realize that we are seeing prophecy unfold in my lifetime. Soon, Israel will be hated by every nation.

Thanks for your tireless efforts to reach God’s Chosen People with the Gospel about their Messiah.
——————

I am grateful for those who stand with the Jewish people and rejoice with the victories of the Jewish people and who and mourn for our people during the very dark times as we have experienced this week.

Please remember to pray for the families of those who lost their sons and for the people of Israel that they might be encouraged and kept safe during these trying times. As we know, Israel will not simply accept these murders and so times will certainly get tougher and more tense over the next few weeks…so pray fervently.

I prayed this prayer;

Father in heaven, we live in disturbing times. The innocent have been murdered and we have again come face-to-face with the cruelty of mankind. Our world needs redemption through your promised Messiah more than ever. Our hearts grieve for parents and siblings who lost their sons and brothers and for the whole household of Israel. We pray for the perpetrators as you told us to pray for our enemies. We pray that your justice will prevail and that those who killed these three teenagers will be brought to trial and punished for their crimes. Most of all Lord, we pray for peace in the Middle East. Please give wisdom to Israel’s leaders and to our own elected officials as battle against terrorism in Israel, Syria, Iraq and throughout the world. Thank you that we know through the promises of Scripture that your holy purposes will ultimately prevail and that true justice will fill the earth when your Son returns and rules on his rightful throne. Until then, Lord, please be merciful to us and we beg you – help us to find a way to stop terrorism and this continued slaughter of our innocents.

AMEN

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Filed under Boycotts against Israel, Christ at the CheckPoint, Israel, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Middle East, Palestinian

The PCUSA’s Divestment Dilemma

The Presbyterian Church USA recently approved an initiative to divest stock holdings in companies allegedly profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.[1]

This decision, as well as others that were made at the 221st General Assembly held last week in Detroit,[2] demands a response from followers of Jesus and especially from Messianic Jews like myself – Jewish people who believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah for all.

However, one needs to look at the divestment vote of the PCUSA holistically. When this is viewed as one decision among many, it is easier to see what is at the heart of this vote.

Reasons for the PCUSA’s Divestment

Let’s start with some good points. The 310 delegates who voted in favor (303 voted against) of the PCUSA divesting their stock holdings in three companies – Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar – probably did so with noble intentions.

Most of the delegates probably believed this symbolic gesture; removing about 21 million dollars in invested funds might cause Israel to reconsider its approach to the current conflict.

The PCUSA delegates who voted for the divestment measures believed their vote is an expression of Christian ethics, affirming the dignity of all humanity created in the image of God, and that true Christians are called to support the oppressed and withstand the oppressors. The assumption of course is that Israelis are genuinely oppressing Palestinians – an assumption that may be heartfelt, but naïve.

I would also assume that those who voted for divestment did so out of a sincere heart of love and compassion for Palestinians whom they believe are victims of Israeli aggression. The PCUSA also affirmed Israel’s right to exist. However, this is especially challenging today because of the decision by the Palestinian Authority to unite with Hamas, who persistently deny Israeli’s right to exist. Unfortunately, the PCUSA statement ignored the linkage between the Palestinian Authority and this known terrorist group.

I speak in many PCUSA churches, and believe that there are many sincere and devoted believers among the 1.8 million members of this great historic church body. However, I question whether or not the pro-Israel PCUSA voice is being heard, as so many have simply given up and left the denomination.

Flaws in the Rationale for Divestment

Let me suggest a few reasons why the PCUSA’s decision to divest is faulty.

First of all, the delegates have chosen to believe the Palestinian narrative of the conflict and therefore – despite the PCUSA’s claim that they have not sided with either Israel or the Palestinians – they have. The PCUSA has decided to accept the charges against Israel by the Palestinian side and have acted upon them. This includes measures taken by Israel in Gaza and hotbed areas of the West Bank to prevent further acts of terrorism. The profound role of terrorism has not even been addressed in the PCUSA decision to divest.

The PCUSA has also “paraded” a few left-wing Israeli peace activists to demonstrate that there are Jewish Israelis who agree with their position. According to the Times article,

Of more influence was the presence at the church’s convention all week of Jewish activists, many of them young, in black T-shirts with the slogan “Another Jew Supporting Divestment.” Many of them were with Jewish Voice for Peace, a small but growing organization that promotes divestment and works with Palestinian and Christian groups on the left.[3]

This effort to show Jewish support is a tactic practiced by the Palestinian media machine and has now been evidently adopted the PCUSA as well. Israel is a free country and dissent may freely be expressed there, as in the United States. The PCUSA should have asked an Israeli government official to speak, or at least had had someone representing the mainstream views of average Israelis. The event must be seen as heavily orchestrated towards persuading delegates to pass the divestment measures.

I just returned from Israel, where Palestinian spokespersons for Hamas and other similar groups reported that the three Israeli boys who have recently disappeared were not kidnapped, but are merely missing – though the evidence is virtually decisive that they were kidnapped and may have already been killed. The Palestinian media machine claims that the Israelis are using this as an excuse to “crack down on” the Palestinians.

Most PCUSA delegates have been influenced by a booklet produced by the anti-Israel lobby of the PCUSA entitled “Zionism Unsettled,” which perpetuates the most radical political viewpoints of the Palestinian media machine.[4] This document has been disavowed by many within the PCUSA as much too one-sided, yet it has been the major influence and provided the essential political perspective for the divestment decision.

Ultimately, one of the main reasons the vote passed at this General Assembly, despite failing to be approved in the past, is because many of those who supported Israel have already left the denomination because of a variety of issues.

The PCUSA’s General Departure from Scripture

Other issues were also affirmed at this General Assembly, besides divestment from the three companies. For example, the New York Times reported the following:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted at its General Assembly on Thursday to change its constitution’s definition of marriage from “a man and a woman” to “two people,” and to allow its ministers to perform same-sex marriages where it is legal.

The vote giving discretion to ministers to marry gay couples takes effect on Sunday, at the close of the General Assembly.[5]

This issue has been more schismatic for the average PCUSA congregation than the divestment issue, but together these decisions speak to a trend. Viewing these decisions by the PCUSA General Assembly as aspects of one agenda will sober evangelicals who may have unwittingly embraced the divestment decision without understanding the underlying values moving the PCUSA leadership in this direction.

The PCUSA seems to be leaving its biblical moorings. Instead of allowing Holy Scripture to judge the trends and philosophies of our day, the opposite is happening – today’s trends and values are beginning to determine the ethical, moral and political decisions of the church.

Dangerous Results of the PCUSA’s Decision

As a Messianic Jew, I am also very concerned with the decisions of the PCUSA. I am very disturbed with the lack of understanding or commitment to the literal promises of God in the Old Testament to the Jewish people. In fact, a literal interpretation of the Old Testament would have caused the PCUSA to make a different decision on the issue of gay marriage as well.

Disregarding a more literal view of the Old Testament can easily lead God’s people along the path of moral relativity and spiritual decline, as when we spiritualize God’s commandments, we become rudderless boats navigating the turbulent rivers of discipleship in today’s world.

I grieve over the increment general turn of the PCUSA from a heartfelt concern for the spiritual welfare of the Jewish people to the current loss of evangelistic zeal for Jewish people. In fact, in the first half of the 20th century, the Presbyterians – which then included a number of more conservative groups that have since split from the larger body – were active in Jewish missions and believed that reaching Jewish people for Jesus was important. The Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church at the time supported dozens of workers among the Jewish people and Neighborhood Houses that were funded as Centers for Jewish outreach.

The PCUSA of today do not seem to care how these politically-driven decisions might impact the eternal fate of Jewish people. But perhaps the leaders of the PCUSA have stopped caring about this a long time ago?

The PCUSA must understand that even if a few liberal Rabbis or Jewish community leaders support their decision, the vast majority of Jewish people – my people – will view their divestment decision as one of a long list of Christian acts against the Jewish people. It makes me heartsick to see this happen again, as it will decrease the willingness of Jewish people to listen to the Gospel. Why should my people be interested in a faith that has made a politically-driven decision against the Jewish homeland?

I will have a lot of explaining to do. Dear PCUSA leaders, you could have handled this better!


Notes:

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/us/presbyterians-debating-israeli-occupation-vote-to-divest-holdings.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

[2] http://www.religionnews.com/2014/06/20/prebyteriansdivestment/

[3] IBID

[4] http://store.pcusa.org/2646614001

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/us/presbyterians-vote-to-change-definition-of-marriage-to-two-people.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

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Filed under Anti-Semitism, Boycotts against Israel, Christ at the CheckPoint, Israel, Judaism, Middle East

Should Christian Schools Allow Jesus to Teach? After all – He is an Israeli

December 26, 2013

 

On December 4, 2013, the American Studies Association, a small but well-regarded and influential force on many university campuses voted to boycott Israeli universities. [1] The Washington Post described their actions as follows,

THE AMERICAN STUDIES Association, a group of about 5,000 scholars devoted to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. culture and history, has called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions…as a way to protest Israeli “state policies that violate human rights” of Palestinians, including academic freedom for scholars and students. The resolution drew support of two-thirds of the 1,252 association members who voted. The boycott is largely symbolic; it’s also terribly misguided.[2]

The measure, recommended by the Association’s Board of Directors, approved the action and the full group of scholars voted to affirm the Board’s decision.

Their decision has now been condemned by a number of schools and both Brandeis and The University of Pennsylvania have dropped their membership in the association.

According to a report in Tablet magazine,

Harvard and Yale, along with a host of other universities, public officials, and journalistic outlets, have condemned and rejected the American Studies Association’s academic boycott of Israel.[3]

 

Further, the report claims,

In total, 26 schools have thus far rejected the ASA boycott in the days following its passage.[4]

This latest measure against Israel may be viewed as “flowing in the same stream” as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement which responded to the Israel/Palestinian crisis by advocating an array of economic and political actions designed to arouse the sympathies of the global community for the Palestinian cause by tarring Israel with the same brush as the now defunct Apartheid regime of South Africa.[5]

This is just another effort among many by those who are anti-Israel and pro- Palestinian, but it comes this time from a group that does not usually take a position on political and social issues in other countries.

Former Harvard president Lawrence Summers said on the Charlie Rose show,

My hope would be that responsible university leaders will become very reluctant to see their universities’ funds used to finance faculty membership and faculty travel to an association that is showing itself not to be a scholarly association but really more of a political tool. [6]

As a Messianic Jew and an Evangelical, I am deeply concerned as well about the actions of the ASA.

The boycott is politically driven and naïve as the abuses of human rights and restriction of academic freedom in other countries are far more heinous.  In fact, Israel’s state of academic freedom was noted as “great” by the ASA’s.[7]

As the Washington Post writes,

Have the scholars overlooked the cries for help from Cuban dissidents bravely standing up to the Castro brothers, demanding freedoms — and suffering beatings and arrest almost every week? Do they condone the decision of a judge in Saudi Arabia who has just sentenced a political activist to 300 lashes and four years in prison for calling for a constitutional monarchy?[8]

Perhaps the following statement from the ASA resolution will make it clear that they are playing partisan politics and not seeking the academic good of the institutions they serve.

It is resolved that the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  It is also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.[9]

This is intensified in the following statements, which the ASA wrote to the leaders of their member academic institutions regarding the resolution:

The resolution understands the boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the ASA in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions (such as deans, rectors, presidents and others), or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The proposed resolution expressly DOES NOT endorse a boycott of Israeli scholars engaged in individual-level contacts and ordinary forms of academic exchange, including presentations at conferences, public lectures at campuses, and collaboration on research and publication. U.S. scholars are not discouraged under the terms of the boycott from traveling to Israel for academic purposes, provided they are not engaged in a formal partnership with or sponsorship by Israeli academic institutions. The academic boycott of Israeli institutions is not designed to curtail dialogue. Rather, it emerges from the recognition that these forms of ordinary academic exchange are often impossible for Palestinian academics due to Israeli policies.[10]

After reading the above, it is evident that the ASA has taken it upon itself to act as both judge and jury. They have overstepped their mandate and used their academic organization as a political weapon rather than as an instrument designed for the greater pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

This is further revealed in a quick review of their statement of purpose found in the by laws of the ASA.

ARTICLE I: Name and Object

Sec. 1. The name of this society shall be the American Studies Association

Sec. 2. The object of the association shall be the promotion of the study of American culture through the encouragement of research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions in this country and abroad devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about American culture in all its diversity and complexity.[11]

Again, the ASA has stepped beyond their stated mission to advance American Studies.  Perhaps the question to ask of the ASA is why?  To what end?  And whose agenda is really driving the actions of the ASA?

It is my hope that our Evangelical Christian community will take a public stand against these measures by the ASA. Evangelical Christian schools have participated in conferences and programs organized by the ASA and should follow suit with those secular academic institutions by protesting this resolution and taking a stand for academic freedom, authentic justice, and fair play.

I like the statement by the editorial board of the Washington Post and I believe this is the type of attitude we should foster, especially as Jesus’ peacemakers:

The American Studies Association would have more impact by finding a way to engage deeply with Israelis and Palestinians, perhaps with scholarly conferences and exchanges, rather than by punishing Israel with a boycott.[12]

I am hoping that our Evangelical Christian schools will follow suit and join with the growing number of US schools that believe the ASA has crossed a line and that it’s actions will lead to an increase in conflict rather than peace.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9


[4] IBID

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Filed under American Studies Association, Birthright Israel, Boycotts against Israel, Christ at the CheckPoint, Christian School, Christian University, Israel, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Middle East